BY KARISSA MILLER
Getting kids to adopt fitness as part of their life is Lake Norman Elementary Physical Education teacher Beth Kersten’s goal.
“We teach students the important of moving. We want kids to enjoy being active for a lifetime — their lifetime,” Kersten said.
Kersten, who goes by “Coach K,” has been teaching PE for 37 years and has spent 20 years of her career at Lake Norman Elementary. Kim Jeter, in her second year teaching, co-teaches PE with Kersten.
“We feel it is important to make connections. PE is not a separate learning area. We are a skills-based curriculum,” Jeter said. “When you think about it — not having the basic skills, your games and activities won’t be as successful.”
“We know that not everyone is athletic or likes PE. So we do things like dance and rhythm activities, ball and recreational games, striking, dribbling, throwing and catching, scooter play, teamwork sportsmanship and communication cooperation,” she added.
If you go to a party or a barbecue, Jeter explained, there will recreational games. Knowing how to play games like shuffleboard, horseshoe, corn toss, four square, spike ball, frisbee and other games will make those outings more enjoyable.
One of the most important things that they emphasize is that PE is not “recess.” It’s a class where you learn, starting in kindergarten.
“Kids know that when they come in here, we have high expectations. No matter what their ability is we want everyone to be successful. We want them to enjoy moving. Not everyone is going to be an athlete,” Kersten said.
One unique game that they play is Hungry Hippos. The teachers put a bunch of pit balls on the floor and the students are on scooters and they have to collect as many balls as possible with a basket, which represents the hippo’s mouth.
The bigger students play this game laying on their stomach, which helps them build their core strength, which is needed for their trunk lift and pushups, Kersten said.
“We always try and let them see the connection of how it’s going to help them with their testing,” Kersten said. “We do have to test twice a year. We talk about that we aren’t teaching to the test, but that some of these activities will help you with your pushups and curl-ups.”
Jeter said that they also do a core strength activity in which kids hold their body in a plank position and they use the stacking cups and have to move, which builds their strength.
In elementary school, it’s not a challenge to get some of the younger students motivated or excited, but older students aren’t always as eager.
Each month, they lead a walk or bike to school day for the kids. Students get to choose how they will come to school and get a stamp on their hand for their movement. They also participate in Jump Rope for Heart and other activities throughout the school year.
Both teachers like to change things up and get new ideas from attending PE conferences. In light of today’s mental health issues and students often choosing sedentary activities, they said it’s especially important to get kids moving.
“We try and get them engaged with the supplies and resources that we have, but we change it up each year,” Kersten said.
Jeter said they are intentional about building relationships with their students.
“We are very engaged with the kids. They love it when we join them for things. Even if we are having a bad day, you wouldn’t know it when we are teaching,” Jeter said.
If they are doing crunches, the teachers are down on the floor doing crunches with them, she added.
One of the challenges is that the school does not have a gym. They use a multi-purpose room and some sports like basketball have to be pared down because of space limitations.
However, seeing their students excited about PE and passionate about learning new things makes their job rewarding.
“I love that in PE you can learn and get all the wiggles out and have fun all at the same time,” said Lilli King, a fifth-grader who participates in the LNE’s Run Fit after-school club.